The Cottage Builder's Letter

Paperback | April 17, 2001

byGeorge Murray

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With The Cottage Builder’s Letter, gifted poet George Murray comes into his own with a new book of sumptuous lyrical narratives. He constructs his remarkable stories-in-song around challenges in the lives of people claiming their right to exist in a world seemingly set against them. Highly crafted, generous in tone, and always with a moral authority, The Cottage Builder’s Letter tackles the larger historical issues of Murray’s own Irish background by creating heroes of well-storied, fictional characters such as a nameless Muskoka cottage builder, the singular Seamus Me Fein (Seamus myself), and his parents and his grandparents, vaulting their hard luck and hard work into poetry driven by bardic rhythms. Murray re-invigorates traditional rhythms the same way he surprises us by creating fresh figures from old tales. Whether his subject is a modern-day Damocles, a drowning man waiting for Noah, an Egyptian on the Red Sea, or the Cassandra myth updated to contemporary urban scenes, Murray’s poetry bursts with a protean vigour.

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From the Publisher

With The Cottage Builder’s Letter, gifted poet George Murray comes into his own with a new book of sumptuous lyrical narratives. He constructs his remarkable stories-in-song around challenges in the lives of people claiming their right to exist in a world seemingly set against them. Highly crafted, generous in tone, and always with a m...

From the Jacket

With The Cottage Builder's Letter, gifted poet George Murray comes into his own with a new book of sumptuous lyrical narratives. He constructs his remarkable stories-in-song around challenges in the lives of people claiming their right to exist in a world seemingly set against them. Highly crafted, generous in tone, and always with a m...

George Murray is the author of two acclaimed books of poetry, Carousel (2000) and The Cottage Builder’s Letter (2001). His work has appeared in many newspapers and magazines in Canada, and in the U.S. and Australia, including Descant, The Iowa Review, The Globe and Mail, Jacket, Mid-American Review, Nerve, Painted Bride Quarterly, and ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:112 pages, 8.53 × 5.38 × 0.32 inPublished:April 17, 2001Publisher:McClelland & StewartLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0771066724

ISBN - 13:9780771066726

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Read from the Book

The Last of the Sinners Waits on a Rock for NoahI stood with the calm of a hunting stork,the patience of a scarecrow: arms outstretchedfor balance, one foot drowned to the anklein the floodwaters, the other tuckedinside a knee, one sole gripping my leg, the other palming like a fist that highest peak. I lost count at forty days, but still know this -by twenty the water had chased us up here, by thirty the heads of my people had sunk belowthe rain, by forty memory deserted meto the awareness I was now all body: bonesand skin waterlogged and dried into this pose. Around me at times birds flew: sparrow, split-tailed swallow, nightingale and thrush, each winging on its last breaththen spinning down into the sea -never one with a moment's thought given tosaving itself on an arm where blood still flowed. Sometime recently, I couldn't say when, a strong but, later I learned, unfaithful crowcame gliding just above the hushed surface -its cry petulant, as though tired of carryingthe sky: those ailerons, suited to soaring, camouflaging it like a thief against the Black Sea. And in its flight, so curiously near, I caughtsight of a dark eye as it closed the distanceto pluck and eat from my hair a twig and leaf, another determined refugee of the water, perhaps an only remaining relative, and in that gleaming oculus I was revealed -salt flats like a teary desert of dry riverbedsstretching back from my eyes, crackedwhite tide rills running like fossilized evidenceof earthly trauma across my desiccated lips, a bleached crown of black hair witheredand hardened, standing from my head. And, as I started in fright at the faceof a stranger, the fickle crow flew off unfed, its wings disappearing over the horizon, and I was alone again, for a time, untila seemingly tame rock dove swept in, lightingon the taut and burnt muscles of an arm -its slim, peaked body heaving with justenough breath to keep alive the twitchingof its head, and it stayed a momentpreening and warbling, rummaging for foodamong the jetsam of my beard: onlyrelief, good intentions, and hunger in its eyes. But in its fearless fetching of leaf and branch, the balance I had for so many days struckbetween me, the mountain, and the seawas broken: and slowly, with a creak inthe bones like a keel in a storm, I began to tip. In the apology of its stare, also reflectingboth myself and the blue-on-blue horizon, another scene played before it too fled -widening eyes, a scorched head tilting away, the skyline listing to an angle viewedmost often by the awakening and the dead.

Editorial Reviews

“[Murray] demonstrates that a firm controlling metaphor in a poem need not obviate the free play of imagination.…Highly impressive.…”
Globe and Mail